Image: Alan Landers
Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP
Former cigarette model Alan Landers, shown in a 1997 photo, died at his South Florida home on Friday. He had been undergoing treatment for throat cancer.
updated 3/3/2009 4:46:28 PM ET 2009-03-03T21:46:28

Alan Landers, the handsome model who posed for Winston cigarette ads and later sued the tobacco industry over his health claims, has died while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He was 68.

Landers died Friday at his south Florida home, his niece, Robin Levine Carns, said.

"He lived a very positive life. Very strong, loved life," Carns said.

Landers, whose legal name was Allan Levine, started smoking as a child and wrote on his Web site that he was required to smoke on the sets for advertisements, posing for billboards and magazine ads as the self-proclaimed "Winston Man."

"He was just such a star for us in our family," said Carns, who was a child during Landers' heyday as a model in the 1960s and 1970s. "He was just such a celebrity."

Landers said he lost his mother, father, brother, grandmother, aunt and uncle to cancer. Yet during his years as a cigarette model, Landers said he didn't know he was glamorizing a fatal habit.

Critic of industry
Later in life, Landers became an outspoken critic of the tobacco industry. Carns said he traveled the world as a staunch anti-smoking advocate and eventually brought his fight into the court system.

Florida attorney Norwood "Woody" Wilner sued four of the nation's top cigarette makers on Landers' behalf in December 1995. The case was scheduled to go to trial in April, said one of Landers' attorneys, Tim Howard.

Landers was looking forward to the trial, Howard said.

"He was full of fight in his heart and his spirit," Howard said. "But there's only so much a human body can take."

The former cigarette pitchman had long struggled with health problems.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1987, and had two cancerous lobes removed from his right lung. In 1993, doctors found cancer in his left lung. An emphysema diagnosis followed, and in 1996 he began having chest pains at a Senate hearing on smoking. Landers then underwent a double-bypass to repair two blocked arteries.

The status of Landers' case is now a murky issue.

Status of case murky
Under Florida law, Howard said, only a parent, child or spouse of the deceased can pick up a case after a death. Landers' parents are both dead and he has no wife or child. There are also thousands of similar cases that need attention, Howard said.

"He wanted his justice. He wanted his day in court," Howard said. "And that's the challenge with all these cigarette cases ... When the courts drag out justice, the individuals die."

Howard said Landers was fighting for the right cause and "we want to carry on that fight, in honor of him."

Carns said Landers is survived by a brother and his other nieces and nephews. No funeral arrangements have been made.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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